TAMPA - The woman walks into the examination room and smiles. "You know what we're going to be giving you today?" she asks the 11-year-old boy sitting nervously in the chair.
Margaret Ewen, the Immunization Program Manager at the Hillsborough County Department of Health likes to break the tension for the kids who know why they're here. School immunizations mean needles and shots.
After the first of two shots in the left arm, she voices support for the boy. "Alright. Did good. One down," Ewen says.
With most bay area students starting school early next week, officials offer a reminder: "Florida requires a school physical when you enter for the first time. And the immunization record is a certificate to show that the children are immune. Because we do get vaccine preventable diseases, and we need to know who is protected and who is not," explained Ewen.
So what will happen if your child shows up on the first day of school without the proper paperwork for both the physical and the immunizations?
"The first day of school, kids are all dressed up in their new outfits ready for school. They get to school and they get turned away," said Ewen.
Depending on the child's age, different vaccines are required at various grade levels. For parents whose beliefs do not support immunizing their children, they can obtain a religious exemption form from the Health Department.
"They must present that to the school to be able to enter. They just can't write it on a note and take it to school. They must present the 681 form, which they can only get at the Health Department," Ewen explained.
Whether it's Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco or Polk, officials say time is running out to take the all important step of vaccinating; to help prepare your kids for a successful school year.
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